The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has dismissed the speculation that it wants Pakistan to abandon its long-range nuclear weapons program.
“Regarding recent speculation that program discussions with the authorities for the ninth review under IMF-supported program may have covered Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, I want to be categoric that there is absolutely no truth to this or any insinuated link between the past or current IMF supported programs and decisions by any Pakistani government over its nuclear program,” the lender’s Resident Representative Esther Perez Ruiz said in an emailed response on Sunday.
She also said, “Our discussions have exclusively focused on economic policies to solve Pakistan’s economic problems, in line with the IMF’s mandate for promoting macroeconomic and financial stability”.
The resident rep’s comment comes after last week when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar brought the topic of Pakistan’s prized nuclear missiles into the public sphere amid his team’s recent struggles to ink a much-awaited staff-level agreement (SLA) for a billion-dollar IMF bailout.
“Nobody has any right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles it can have and what nuclear weapons it can have. We have to have our own deterrence,” Dar declared while speaking during a special Senate session in front of foreign dignitaries of many nations on Thursday.
Hours after Dar’s revelation, the Prime Minister’s Office also issued a statement to clear the air about the nuclear program and its safety. Many members of the ruling coalition followed suit and started claiming in tweets and media briefings that the country’s strategic assets were at risk. The IMF rep’s clarification nullifies this narrative altogether.
It bears mentioning that Pakistan requires $6 billion in new loans to bridge the financing gap and convince the IMF but Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have yet to provide these loans despite Pakistan’s desperate pleas.
After more than a month of negotiations to settle policy framework issues aimed at reducing the fiscal deficit ahead of the annual budget in June, Pakistan still hopes to sign the SLA with the IMF, but a further delay is likely. Meanwhile, China recently agreed to refinance $2 billion in foreign commercial loans and has already transferred $1.2 billion into the accounts of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
Except for the external financing requirement, Pakistan has completed almost all prior actions posed by the IMF. If everything proceeds on schedule, the current program will successfully conclude in June, or be abandoned altogether if uncertainty and communication delays persist.